I can't be the only one who thinks "like" is one of the most insipid words in the universe. Along with "nice", "ok" and "fine", it could be grouped into a thesaurus under "meh".
Yet many brands still persist in obsessively counting Facebook likes as a method of engagement, disregarding the fact that to click the blue button requires little thought or effort and is more often a measure of the poster's popularity than true resonance with the content producer.
Yet in an age of continually declining publisher revenues and an increasingly fragmented media landscape where a GIF of a giant watermelon can be as popular as the latest Hollywood blockbuster, it is brands that will be become the publishers of the future with the resources and the will to continue to produce original content in an attempt to build engagement.
But content marketing needs better storytellers if it is to succeed in creating real relationships with the new prosumer. Most campaigns fail as stories, and subsequently fail as campaigns. We all know a great story when we see it, we run after it, we go out of our way to find out what happens. Netflix and other data-driven producers are amazing at creating stories and characters that capture our attention.
Building emotional empathy with your audience is the backbone of good storytelling - Netflix has built a relentless data collection machine that reports on every aspect of our viewing behaviour, and feeds that intelligence into the next binge-worthy production. They combine data and creative to create an emotional relationship with the viewer.
To build a rounded picture of your consumer through their social profiles you need to have an idea of the content they like, but in context, to see if it's more than the Pavlovian response to what the guy/girl they fancy is doing and whether it represents them as a whole.
The advent of AI and machine learning in this space presents great opportunity for brands to blend the rationality of data with the emotional context. Start-up Echobox claims that it can tell a brand how audiences react to different articles at different times of the day and by doing so can select what and when to post. It claims an average 71% gain in referral traffic through Facebook and 142% through Twitter.
Another UK start-up, Codec, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to listen to the signals from social media to contextualise them and better understand an audience's emotional DNA. This enables them to provide a "playbook" for creatives to help produce more engaging content that resonates and triggers action, engagement and connection.
However, it is not enough to trigger emotional responses from your audience and manipulate them into viewing your content, you have to craft them into a story that transcends the moment. The challenge to brands is to harness new technology to build better content that isn't just likeable, but is shareable and unforgettable. To be great storytellers they need to transcend content marketing and be part of the conversation in context, not as a cynical interruption.